Skip to main content

Full text of "Abraham Lincoln: his story"

See other formats

/jr ^y 











the Class of 1901 

founded by 






St. Gaddens' Statue of Lincoln, in Lincoln Park, Chicago. 


Abraham Lincoln: 
JLlis otory 





1816 Chestnut Street 

Copyright, 1918, by the 
American Sunday-School Union 

All righta reserved 

To My Wife 
KATHARms Trumbull Scoville 


The author takes this opportunity of ex- 
pressing his obhgation to Dr. Taicott WiUiams, 
head of the Department of Joiunahsm of 
Columbia University, for access to his scrap- 
book of Lincolniana, covering a period of 
many years. For the facts and in some cases 
for the phrasing of parts of this sketch the 
author is indebted to the host of unknown 
writers included in Dr. Williams' collection. 

The author has also consulted and made use 
of the following works: Abraham Lincoln: A 
History, by John G. Nicolay and John Hay; 
The Life of Abraham Lincoln, by Ida M. Tar- 
bell; Abraham Lincoln — The Boy and the Man, 
by James Morgan; Abraham Lincoln the Chris- 
tian, by Rev. William J. Johnson; Lincoln the 
Laivyer, by Frederick T. Hill; Life of Abraham 
Lincoln, by J. G. Holland; and The Complete 
Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by John 
G. Nicolay and John Hay. Wherever pos- 
sible the writer has allowed Lincoln to speak 
for himself. 

Samuel Scoville, Jr. 

Philadelphia, March, 1918. 


More than haK a century ago the feet of 
this nation had slipped to the very brink of 
the pit and were scorched with fire. Then came 
the Man. Still his words ring down the years 
a message to us who are today giving of our 
best for the freedom of the world : 

"This conflict will settle the question, at 
least for centuries to come, whether man is 
capable of governing himseK, and consequently 
is of greater importance to the free than to 
the slaves." 

"We shall nobly save or meanly lose the 
last, best hope of earth." 

"Government of the people, by the people, 
and for the people, shall not perish from the 



I. The Boy 13 

II. The Man 21 

III. The Lawyer 33 

IV. The Speaker 45 

V. The Statesman 54 

VI. The Christian 65 


St. Galtdens' Statue of Lincoln Frontispiece. 


Birthplace and White House 16 

Lincoln in Early Manhood 38 

Barnard's Statue of Lincoln 46 

Lincoln and McClellan at Antietam 58 

Lincoln and His Son "Tad" 66 





In every century are born men whose lives 
bring messages of help and hope tx) those who 
come Eifter. Such an one was Abraham Lin- 
coln. The year of his birth, 1809, was a hon- 
year. Charles Darwin was born the same day; 
Mendelssohn, Edgar Allen Poe, Ohver Wendell 
Holmes, Alfred Tennyson, and WilKam Ewart 
Gladstone in the same year. Few boys of today 
start hfe so handicapped by hardships or with 
fewer opportunities. Lincoln knew little about 
his ancestors. In later Ufe he said that he was 
more concerned to know what his grandfather's 
grandson would be than who his grandfather 
had been. 

One of his grandfathers was named Abraham 
Lincoln, and went as a pioneer to Kentucky — 
then the ''Dark and Bloody Ground" claimed 
and guarded by fierce Indian tribes. There, 
near where the city of Louisville now stands, 
he cleared a field in the forest, not far from a 
stockade erected by other settlers, and built 
a cabin. A schoolmaster of that time remem- 



bers boarding in a similar cabin, which had but 
one room sixteen feet square, where hved a 
father, mother, ten children, three dogs, and 
two cats. It was so cold at night that he slept 
on his shoes in order to prevent them from 
freezing too stiff to be worn the next day. 

One morning in the year 1784 this first 
Abraham Lincoln started with his three sons, 
Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, to work at a 
little clearing near the cabin. Suddenly from 
a near-by thicket sounded the crack of a rifle, 
and this first Kentucky Lincoln fell back dead. 
Josiah ran to the stockade for help. Mordecai 
dashed back to the cabin and took down his 
father's rifle just as an Indian, in full war paint, 
reached Thomas, a httle boy of six, who had 
stayed by his father's body. It was necessary 
to shoot quick and straight to save his brother's 
life. Aiming through a loophole at a white 
string of wampum on the Indian's breast, 
Mordecai dropped him dead while Thomas 
escaped into the cabin. From there Mordecai 
fought off the other Indians until help came 
from the stockade. 

The sight of his father's death turned this 
oldest boy Mordecai into an Indian-hunter, 
and he spent his life in stalking and kilHng 
Indians wherever he could find them. Thomas, 
the father of Abraham Lincoln, grew up a 


wandering laboring boy, with just enough 
education to write his name. Drifting from 
one job to another he became a carpenter and 
married Nancy Hanks, the niece of the man in 
whose shop he worked. The young couple 
went to housekeeping in a log cabin which had 
one room, one door, and one window, and was 
furnished with a spinning-wheel, a loom, and 
a feather bed. 

There, in Hardin County, Kentucky, on 
February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born, 
and there he hved until he was seven years old. 
Lincoln's only playmate was his sister, and his 
playground the lonely forest. With this sister 
he went to school now and then under wander- 
ing school-teachers, who held school in a de- 
serted cabin made of round logs with a dirt 
floor and small holes for windows covered with 
greased paper. There he learned his alphabet. 

The War of 1812 was being fought at this 
time. "I had been fishing one day," he once 
told a friend in speaking about these times, 
"and had caught a little fish, which I was tak- 
ing home. I met a soldier in the road and hav- 
ing been told at home that we must be good to 
the soldiers, I gave him my fish." 

In April, 1816, Thomas Lincoln sold his 
farm for four hundred gallons of whiskey and 
twenty dollars, built a raft, and started down 


the Ohio River to find a new home in Indiana. 
On the way the raft capsized, but he saved his 
tools and most of the whiskey. On the Indiana 
shore he chose some land for his new farm and 
then went back for his family. The last thing 
that the little boy remembers of his Kentucky 
home was that his mother took him and his 
sister to say good-bye to the little brother whom 
they were leaving behind in an unmarked 
grave in the wilderness. 

On two borrowed horses, with some bedding 
and a few pans and kettles, the Lincoln family 
cut their way through the forest for eighteen 
miles to Little Pigeon Creek. There Thomas 
Lincoln hmriedly built a shed out of saphngs 
entirely open on one side, and in this the family 
lived a whole year while he cleared a cornpatch 
and built a rough cabin. 

M through the freezing winter storms they 
huddled together in this rude camp. Finally 
the new log cabin was built and the family 
moved in. One can gain an idea of how hur- 
riedly and roughJy it was put together from a 
memorandum made by Abraham Lmcoln in 
later years: "A few days after the completion 
of his eighth year," he wrote, "in the absence of 
his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached 
the new log cabin, and Abraham, w^th a new 
rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack 

Lincoln's Birthplace, near HoDGEN^^LI.E, Kt. 

Thk White House as Lincoln Entered It. 
From photograph taken in 1861. 


and killed one of them. He has never since 
pulled trigger on any larger game." 

The cabin had no window other than the 
large cracks which he mentions, nor any door 
to shut out the sleet and snow which drifted 
in through the doorway. The bare earth which 
served for a floor turned to mud during the 
winter thaws. The little boy's bed was a heap 
of loose leaves in a loft, which he reached by 
climbing up on pegs driven into the wall. Some- 
times the family had nothing to eat but roast 
potatoes, and a neighbor remembers that 
peeled, sliced raw potatoes were passed around 
for dessert. Sometimes on cold days the chil- 
dren would carry a hot roast potato with them 
on their way to school to keep their hands 
warm. "They were pretty pinching times," 
wrote Abraham Lincoln in after years. 

In 1818, when Abraham was nine years old, 
a mysterious disease nearly wiped out the 
small community at Little Pigeon Creek. It 
was called the "milk-sick" and attacked cattle 
and humans alike. Nancy Hanks Lincoln was 
stricken down with it. There was no doctor 
within thirty-five miles, and under the swift 
fever she died before one could be called. Her 
last message to her boy, as she lay dying, was 
to be good to his father and sister, and to love 
his kin and worship God. She was buried in a 


rude coffin on a knoll near by, with no prayer 
or service over the grave. Months later the 
little boy learned to write, and his first letter, 
addressed to a wandering preacher, brought 
the latter to preach a funeral sermon over the 
lonely, snow-covered grave. 

Before the next winter was over, the father 
went back to Kentucky and so successfully 
courted a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston, that 
they were married the morning after he called 
upon her. This second marriage was the begin- 
ning of a better fife for the two little Lincoln 
children. The new mother had so much prop- 
erty that a four-horse team was needed to 
bring it all to Little Pigeon Creek ; and for the 
fii'st time in his life Abraham Lincoln slept on a 
feather bed, with a pillow and blankets and 
even a quilt. From her, too, he received his 
first woolen shirt, which took the place of the 
deerskin one that he had always worn before. 
The shiftless father was forced to make a door, 
lay a floor, and cut out a window, which was 
covered with greased paper instead of glass. 

Sarah Bush Lincoln was an honest, energetic 
Christian woman, who learned to love Abra- 
ham quite as dearly as her own children. He 
owed much to her love and care. It was she 
who persuaded the father to let him go to 
school. The boy would walk nine miles a day 


and do his studying at night in the light of a 
fire made from shavings, while his figuring was 
done with a bit of charcoal on the back of a 
wooden shovel, which he would whittle clean 
when it could hold no more. His pen was the 
quill of a turkey buzzard, and his ink was made 
from the juice of a brier-root. Altogether he 
had in his whole life less than a year of school- 
ing, but he learned to read and spell and write 
and cipher to the rule of three. 

One day a wagon broke down in the road 
near the house, and a woman with her two 
daughters stayed with the Lincolns over night. 
She had some books and told the children some 
stories. For the first time Abraham discovered 
what opportunity and happiness books can 
bring to those who learn to read them. From 
that day on he borrowed and read every book 
that he could get for miles around. One of the 
earliest writings which we have of his is a copy- 
book form which he set for a neighbor: 

Good boys, who to their books apply. 
Will all be great men by and by. 

There were six books which he read and read 
and reread. These books were the Bible, 
JEsop's Fables, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, 
Robinson Crusoe, A History of the United States, 
and Weems's Life of Washington. The last- 


named book was damaged by the rain which 
drove in one night through the cracks in the 
cabin, and Lincoln had to pull fodder in the 
owner's cornfield for three whole days in order 
to pay for it. The book belonged to one "Blue- 
Nose" Crawford, and Lincoln afterward wrote 
a poem about him, making fun of his stinginess, 
— but he paid for the book. He kept on borrow- 
ing and reading until, as he later said, he had 
jQnished every book to be obtained within a 
radius of fifty miles. 

There are not many records left of his boy- 
hood. Those that have come down to us are 
all kindly ones. Once he saved the life of the 
village drunkard, whom he found freezing by 
the roadside, cai'rying liim in his arms to the 
tavern and working over him until he was out 
of danger. Another time, it was remembered, 
he rescued a mud turtle from some children 
who were putting red-hot coals on its shell. 
The words of his stepmother can best sum up 
the story of his boyhood: "I can say that Abe 
never gave me a cross word or look, and never 
refused to do anything I asked him. I had a 
son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both 
were good boys, but I must say that Abe was 
the best boy I ever saw." 



Lincoln's staived and straitened boyhood 
stretched out mto a manhood that seemed to 
hold Httle but poverty and toil. As he grew 
large enough he began to work out as a 
farmhand and afterward as a llatboatsman. 
Every yard of the brown jeans dyed with wal- 
nut juice which he wore was earned by splitting 
rails. A day's work lasted from sunrise to sun- 
set and brought him in twenty-five cents. 
Listen to the story of Lincoln's first dollar: 

I was about eighteen years of age and belonged, as 
you know, to what they call down South the "scrubs." 
I was very glad to have the chance of earning something, 
and supposed each of the men would give me a couple 
of bits. I sculled them out to the steamer. They got 
on board, and I lifted the trunks and put them on the 
deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again, 
when I called out, "You have forgotten to pay me." 
Each of them took from his pocket a silver half-dollar 
and threw it on the bottom of my boat. You may think 
it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems to 
me like a trifle, but it was a most important incident 
in my life. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy, 
had earned a dollar in less than a day; that by honest 
work I had earned a dollar. I was a more hopeful and 
thoughtful boy from that time. 

It was on a trip to New Orleans on a flatboat 
with John Hanks that he saw, for the first time, 
men and women put up on a block and sold as 



slaves. Lincoln turned to Hanks and said, 
"John, if I ever get a chance to hit this thing, 
. . . rU hit it hard." 

In 1831 he went to New Salem, on the San- 
gamon River, twenty miles northwest of 
Springfield. The town consisted of only fifteen 
houses all built of logs. Lincoln reached there 
on election day and the clerk of election needed 
a helper. Seeing Lincohi hanging around the 
polls he asked him whether he could write. 
"Well," said Lincoln, "I can make a few rabbit 

He got the job and afterward was hired as 
a clerk in the village store. It was there that 
he laid the foundation of his reputation for 
absolute honesty. Finding one evening that 
he had taken six cents too much from a cus- 
tomer, he walked three miles that night, after 
the store was closed, to return the money. 
Another time, in weighing out half a pound of 
tea, he made a mistake of four ounces. Dis- 
covering this mistake the first thing in the 
morning, he closed the store until he could 
dehver the rest of the tea. 

While he was still a clerk in this store the 
Black Hawk Indian War broke out. There was 
a call for volunteers and Abraham Lincoln was 
elected captain. The other candidate was a 
man named Kirkpatrick, who had once hired 


Lincoln and cheated him out of two dollars in 
wages. Lincoln afterward wrote that no other 
success in life ever gave him so much satisfaction. 

He did not make a great record as a military 
man. In after-life he used to tell how he got his 
men through a gateway into a field: "I could 
not for the life of me remember the right word 
of command for getting my company endwise, 
so that it could get through the gate; so when 
we came near I shouted, 'This company is 
dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in 
again on the other side of the gate.' " 

Lincoln did not win much glory in this 
campaign, but at some risk to himself he saved 
the life of a helpless old Indian whom his men 
wished to kiU. 

When he came back to New Salem, in part- 
nership with a man named Berry he opened a 
store, giving his notes in payment for the stock. 
Berry ran the business heavily into debt and 
died. Instead of going through bankruptcy 
Lincoln sold out, shouldered the burden for 
fifteen years, and paid off every doUar of the 
debt with interest. 

Later on he became the postmaster at New 
Salem. Most of the letters he carried around 
in his hat and delivered to his neighbors at 
their cabins on his way to work — one of the 
earliest systems on record of rural free-delivery. 


At length came a chance to secure an ap- 
pointment as deputy state surveyor. The only 
difficulty was that Lincoln knew absolutely 
nothing about surveying. He borrowed a 
textbook and, with the help of a schoolmaster 
friend, worked night and day for six weeks. 
At the end of that time, pale and haggard but 
a master of surveying, he got the job. 

It was about this time that he fell in love 
with the beautiful Ann Rutledge, wiio died soon 
after they became engaged. "My heart is 
buried there," he said to a friend when they 
once passed her grave. There is no doubt that 
Lincoln was a changed man after her death and 
that her loss deepened his life. This thought 
has been nobly plu"ased by Edgar Lee Masters 
in the epitaph which he has written for her 
almost unmarked grave: 

Ann Rutledge 

Out of me, unworthy and unknown. 

The vibrations of deathless music: 

"With mahce toward none, with charity for all." 

Out of nie the forgiveness of millions toward millions, 

And the beneficent face of a nation 

Shining with justice and truth. 

I am Anne Rutledge who sleep beneath these weeds. 

Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln, 

Wedded to him, not through union. 

But through separation. 

Bloom forever, O Republic, 

From the dust of my bosom! 

In 1834 Lincoln was elected to the state 


legislature and went to Springfield to live. 
He reached that town on a borrowed horse, 
with all of his possessions in a couple of saddle- 
bags, and accepted the offer of Joshua Speed, 
a storekeeper, to share his room and bed until 
he got a start. Going upstairs Lincoln set his 
saddlebags on the floor and coming down said 
beamingly, "Well, Speed, I'm moved." 

In 1842 Lincoln married Mary Todd, a 
spirited, pretty Kentucky girl. They lived 
at the Globe Tavern at four dollars a week. 
He wrote to a friend who had invited him to 
visit in Kentucky: "I am so poor, and make so 
little headway, that I drop back in a month 
of idleness as much as I would gain in a year's 

Here is Lincoln's own account of his appear- 
ance at this time: "I am in height six feet four 
inches nearly, lean in flesh, weighing on an 
average of a hundred and eighty pounds, dark 
complexion, with coarse, black hair and gray 
eyes. No other marks or brands recollected." 

He always had unusual strength and en- 
durance. Once he picked up and carried a 
weight of six hundred pounds. At another 
time he shouldered some posts which several 
men were vainly trying to lift with a hoisting 
machine. In harness he was able to lift a dead 
weight of half a ton off the ground. Moreover, 


he was able to use this strength in protecting 
himself when it became necessary. At New 
Salem, when forced into a fight, he whipped 
Jack Armstrong, the leader of the Clary's 
Grove gang, and then with his back to the 
wall held his own against the rest of the gang, 
all of whom afterward became his devoted 
friends and supporters 

Throughout life Lincoln was a melancholy 
man. He thus wrote about himself in 1841 to 
his friend and partner Stuart: "I am now the 
most miserable man living. If what I feel 
were equally distributed to the whole human 
family, there would not be one cheerful face 
on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I 
cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not." 

He fought this natural despondency with 
his stories, when many another man would 
have given in to it. Of this use of stories 
Lincoln said: 

I am not a story-teller. Often by the use of a story 
I can illustrate a point, or take the sting out of a re- 
fusal to grant a request. Sometimes, too, the telling 
of a good story or the Ustening to one lightens the 
load of sorrow and suffering that one in my position 
has to bear; but it is a mistake to think that I am a 
humorist or teU stories for the laugh that is in them. 

Most of his stories come under this, his own 
description of them, as when, at one of the 
receptions given by him when President, a 


Virginia farmer pushed his way through the 
crowd and told him that some Union soldiers 
had carried off his hay. "I hope, Mr. Presi- 
dent," he ended, "that you'll see that I'm 

Mr. Lincoln's only reply was to tell him the 
story of Jack Chase, the river captain. Once 
when he was piloting a steamer through the 
rapids and straining every nerve and muscle 
to follow the narrow channel, a boy pulled his 
coat-tail and shouted in his ear above the roar 
of the waters: "Say, Mr. Captain, I wish 
you'd stop the boat a minute. I've dropped 
my apple overboard." 

At other times his whimsical droUery and 
quaint flashes of humor were efforts, perhaps 
unconscious, to relieve the rooted melancholy 
of his hfe. "Why, Mr. President, do you black 
your own boots.*^" exclaimed Charles Sumner 
when he found Mr. Lincoln so engaged at the 
White House. "Whose boots did you think 
I blacked .^^" responded the President. 

Another time, when he was visiting the 
Union army, a young officer pushed his way 
through the crowd and complained to him bit- 
terly that Colonel Sherman, as he was then, 
had threatened to shoot him. 

"Did he threaten to shoot you.^" exclaimed 


"Yes, shoot me!" the officer assured him 

Leaning over to him Lincoln said in a stage 
whisper, "Well, if I were you and Sherman had 
threatened to shoot me, I wouldn't trust him 
for a moment — for I believe he'd do it." 

Early in life Lincoln resolved not to weigh 
himself down with bad habits. He led a 
straight, clean hfe morally. What he said 
about the women of America at the end of 
the Civil War can be quoted as his attitude 
toward women during his entire life: 

"If all that has been said by orators and 
poets since the creation of the world in praise 
of women were applied to the women of Amer- 
ica, it would not do them justice for their con- 
duct during this war. I wiU close by saying, 
'God bless the women of America.' " 

He neither drank nor smoked. In the early 
forties he wrote to George E. Pickett, after- 
ward a Confederate general: 

"I have just told the folks here in Spring- 
field, on the hundred-and-tenth anniversary 
of Washington's birthday, that the one victory 
we can ever call complete will be that one 
which proclaims that there is not one slave nor 
one drunkard on the face of God's green earth. 
Recruit for this victory!" 

The picture of his inner life is a harder one 


to draw than that of his appearance and habits. 
There were two men in Lincoln. One of them 
was the Lincoln known to all his townsfolk — 
the plain, honest, shrewd, kindly, humorous 
man, with a certain native dignity which kept 
them from calling him by his first name. "He 
was folky but not familiar," one of them after- 
ward wrote. The other man was the dreamer, 
who made his dreams come true; the mystic, 
who dreamed of the swift ship carrying him to 
a dark shore before the battles of Antietam, 
Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and the night before 
his death; the thinker, who walked the streets 
wrapped in solitude, not seeing his best friends, 
but looking beyond the horizon and pondering 
in his own mind through many a lonely night 
the great problem of slavery. It was this 
Lincoln whom few even of his best friends 
knew. To the day of his death some of them 
persisted in beheving that his greatness was 
an accident or a miracle. Lincoln's own words 
throw light on what were the guiding motives 
of his inner life: 

The better part of one's life consists of our friend- 

he wrote to Judge Gillespie. 

I would have the whole human race your friend and 

he said to his little son " Tad." 


If any man cease to attack me I never remember 
his past agednst him, 

he declared in one of his speeches. 

Stand with anybody that stands right, and part 
with him when he goes wrong, 

he said to men who esteem their party more 
than they do their principles. 

The advice of a father to his son, "Beware of entrance 
to a quarrel, but being in, bear it that the opposed 
may beware of thee," is good, but not the best. Quarrel 
not at all. No man resolved to make the most of him- 
self can spare time for personal contention. Still less 
can he afford to take all the consequences, including 
the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control. 
Yield larger things to which you can show no more 
than equal right; yield lesser ones, though clearly your 
own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by 
him in contesting the right. Even killing the dog would 
not cure the bite. 

So he WTote, and so he Hved. 

He trained himself into a habit of sympathy. 
No man with whom he talked even for a few 
moments but felt that Lincoln was genuinely 
interested in him. Men trusted him for that, 
and because they saw by his everyday life that 
his sympathy was not put on but real. We 
like to read of the time in Springfield when he 
found a child sobbing on the porch of her home. 
She was to take her first railroad trip. The 
family had gone on and the hackman had for- 
gotten to call for her trunk. There was no 


time to get him before the train went. Lincohi 
shouldered the trunk and carried it on his back 
down to the station, arriving just in time to 
catch the train. This habit of kindness never 
left him all his life through. He was merciful 
in the merciless days of the Civil War. He 
pardoned men condemned for cowardice in 
battle. "If God Almighty gives a man a cow- 
ardly pair of legs," he said, "how can he help 
running away.I^" 

He allowed no boys of eighteen to be shot 
for desertion. Once when a man was con- 
demned to death for sleeping at his post he 
drove ten miles in the middle of the night to 
make sure that his telegram pardoning him 
had been received. On the very day of his 
death he said at a Cabinet meeting, when the 
treatment of the Confederate leaders was under 
discussion: "Enough lives have been sacrificed. 
We must extinguish our resentments." 

Thirty-six hours after the fall of Richmond 
Lincoln visited the place and sought out the 
home of General Pickett, who had made the 
great charge at Gettysburg. Lincohi had 
known him as a boy. He found the house and 
knocked at the door. "Is this where George 
Pickett lives?" he asked a woman who came 
to answer the door with a baby in her arms. 
She said that it was and that she was Mrs. 


Pickett. "I am Abraham Lincoln, George's 
old friend," he said. Then he took the baby 
in his arms and told Mrs. Pickett that every- 
thing would be done to make her comfortable 
and her home safe. 

It is this simplicity and kindness which com- 
panions Lincoln forever in om* thoughts with 
the gentle and heroic of older lands, so that of 
him John Bright, the Enghsh statesman, wrote : 
"In him I have observed a singular resolution 
honestly to do his duty, a great courage, a great 
gentleness under the most desperate provoca- 
tions, and a pity and mercifulness to his ene- 
mies. His simplicity did much to hide his 



A 1VLA.N stands revealed by his work. For 
twenty-three years Abraham Lincoln practiced 
law and sowed the harvest which the nation 
reaped in his presidency. 

He was admitted to the bar in 1836, and his 
bar examinations consisted simply of an in- 
quiry into his moral character. In those 
frontier days judges and lawyers depended 
more on common-sense than on common-law, 
and most of the courthouses were log cabins. 
A contemporary of Lincoln remembered that 
when Judge Jolm Re^Tiolds sat in the Circuit 
Court of Washington County, the sheriff 
opened coml by coming to the door of the one- 
room log-built courthouse and shouting to the 
crowd outside: "Come in, boys; our John is 
a-goin' to hold court." 

Another sheriff used to announce the open- 
ing of court as follows: "Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh 
yes! The Honorable Judge is now opened!" 

One of the judges of Lincoln's time once 
restored order in his court by leaving the bench 
and thrashing the offenders, remarking as he 
resumed his seat: "I don't know what power 



the law gives me to keep order in this court, 
but I know very well the power God Almighty 
has given me." 

Another one of Lincoln's contemporaries 
tells of a trial which he attended, when the 
sheriff burst into the courtroom, out of breath, 
and announced to the judge that he had six 
jurors tied up and that his deputies were run- 
ning down the others. Evidently, jury duty 
was no more popular in Lincoln's day than it 
is at present. 

It was in such surroundings that Abraham 
Lincoln began the practice of law. His legal 
training dated back to the day when he bought 
an old barrel for his store for fifty cents, and 
discovered under some rubbish in the bottom 
a complete set of Blackstone's Commentaries. 
He afterward said that was the best stroke of 
business he ever did as a storekeeper. 

Some of the happiest years of Lincoln's life 
were spent in walking or riding the circuit, 
which embraced more than a dozen counties 
and was one hundred and fifty miles broad. 
Once before he was able to afford a horse he 
was trudging along a frozen road toward a 
county-seat, when he was overtaken by a man 
in a wagon. 

"Would you mind carrying my overcoat to 
town for me?" inquired Lincoln, stopping him. 


"Certainly," said the other, "but how will 
you get it again?" 

"Easy enough," replied Lincoln; "I'll stay 
inside of it!" 

Lincoln always had trouble in getting a bed 
that was long enough for him. Once when trav- 
eling by steamboat he found his usual difficulty 
Mith his berth. During the day while Lincoln 
was on deck the captain had it lengthened and 
widened. The next morning Lincoln came to 
breakfast much puzzled and said solemnly 
that a great miracle had happened. During 
the night he had shiunk at least a foot in length 
and over six inches in breadth! 

At the taverns the judge and lawyers sat at 
one end of the table, while the witnesses and 
prisoners, with the ordinary guests, sat at the 
other. Lincoln, however, was often found at 
the wrong end of the table among the common 
folks. Once Judge Davis, who ruled the whole 
bar with a rod of iron, tried to call Lincoln back 
to his end of the table. 

"Come up here where you belong, Lincoln," 
he shouted. 

"Got anything better to eat at your end. 
Judge?" drawled Lincoln, remaining where 
he was. 

He soon became one of the best known and 
best liked men throughout this great expanse 


of country. In his hand he usually carried a 
queer, old carpet-bag. Although he was al- 
ways careless about his clothes he kept him- 
self scrupulously clean, and had learned that a 
man who shaves every day will go much farther 
than one who does not. Sometimes his appear- 
ance was against him, as when he was sent by 
his first partner, Major Stuart, to try a case 
in an adjoining county for one Baddeley, an 
Enghshman. The latter, who was accustomed 
to the bewigged, powdered, and gowned advo- 
cates of his home-country, was disgusted to 
find that he was to be represented by a tall, 
awkward young man whose trousers were as 
much too short as his coat was too large. 
Baddeley immediately sent him back to Stuart 
and retained someone else. He lived, however, 
to become one of Lincoln's most enthusiastic 

In 1850 Lincoln in a lecture to young lawyers 
made some suggestions which are worth repeat- 

The leading rule for a lawyer, as for the man of every 
other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for tomorrow 
which can be done today. Never let your correspond- 
ence fall behind. . . . Extemporaneous speaking should 
be practiced and cultivated. It is the lawyer's avenue 
to the public. However able and faithful he may be in 
other respects, people are slow to bring him business 
if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a 
more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too 
much on speech-making. If anyone, upon his rare 



powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the 
drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance. 

Lincoln brought into the practice of his pro- 
fession the same charity and kindness that he 
had shown as a laborer, a storekeeper, and a 
surveyor. A young lawyer tells about arguing 
his first case in Chicago and making a failure 
of it. After he had sat down in despair a com- 
plete stranger to him came forward from the 
back of the room and stated that, as a member 
of the bar, he claimed the privilege of helping 
a young man who was evidently embarrassed. 
In spite of the protests of the lawyers on the 
other side, the court allowed him to do this, 
and he delivered a short, concise summing-up 
of the case which won it for the novice. The 
latter afterward found out that the stranger was 
Abraham Lincoln from Springfield. 

Lincoln also had the rare faculty of trying 
a case without insulting or quarreling with his 
opponent. During all the years of his practice 
he never made an enemy of another lawyer. 

The honesty of Lincoln's character was al- 
ways evident in his practice. Once Herndon, 
his young partner, had drawn up a dilatory 
plea which would throw a case over at least 
one term of court. "Is this founded on fact?" 
demanded Lincoln. Herndon admitted that 
it was not, but urged that it would save the 


interests of their clients if the delay was ob- 
tained. "You know it is a sham," replied 
Lincoln, "and a sham is very often another 
name for a lie. Don't let it go on record. The 
cm-sed thing may come staring us in the face 
long after this suit has been forgotten." 

Such scrupulous honesty Lincoln carried 
through all his practice. It gave him a stand- 
ing and a reputation which were worth more to 
him than fine gold. He never made the mistake 
that young lawyers sometimes make of sacri- 
ficing a reputation for honesty for the sake of 
winning a case. Moreover, unless he had 
confidence in a case he would not take it. 

Once when it was shown that his client had 
been guilty of fraud he walked out of the court- 
room and refused to continue the trial. The 
judge sent a messenger, directing him to re- 
turn, but he positively dechned. "Tell the 
judge that my hands are dirty, and that I have 
gone away to wash them," was the answer that 
he sent back. 

"Discourage htigation. Persuade your neigh- 
bors to compromise whenever you can. Point 
out to them how the nominal winner is often 
a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of 
time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a 
superior opportunity of being a good man. 
There will still be business enough." So 

Lincoln in Early Manhood. 


Lincoln lectured, and no man at the bar ever 
carried out this advice more conscientiously. 
Once he was asked to collect a claim of two 
and a half dollars and his client insisted, against 
Lincoln's advice, that suit be brought. Lincoln 
thereupon gravely demanded ten doUais as a 
retainer. Half of this he gave to the defendant, 
who then confessed judgment and paid the 
two and a half. By this method he satisfied 
both parties. 

"Yes, there is no reasonable doubt that I can 
gain your case for you," he said to another 
client, who had stated a case which Lincoln 
thought an objectionable one. "I can set a 
whole neighborhood at loggerheads; I can dis- 
tress a widowed mother and her six fatherless 
children and thereby get for you six hundred 
dollars, which rightfully belongs, it appears to 
me, as much to them as to you. I shall not 
take your case, but I will give you a little ad- 
vice for nothing. You seem a sprightly, ener- 
getic man. I would advise you to try your 
hand at making six hundred dollars in some 
other way." 

The lawyer, however, who under-estimated 
Lincoln at a trial soon found that he had made 
a fatal mistake. Underneath Lincoln's hon- 
esty, frankness, and fairness was a consummate 
mastery of tactics, an intimate knowledge of 


human nature, and a broad grasp of legal prin- 
ciples, which finally made him the leader of the 
Illinois bar, "A stranger going into a court 
when he was trying a case would after a few 
minutes find himself instinctively on Lincoln's 
side and wishing him success." This was the 
way his methods impressed an associate. 

Lincoln's mildness and good humor were 
habitual, but woe be to him who relied on those 
qualities to take a wrongful advantage of his 
client. In a murder case in which he repre- 
sented the defendant, the judge unexpectedly 
made a ruling which was contrary to the de- 
cisions of the Supreme Court and was most in- 
jmious to Lincoln's client. A spectator de- 
scribed what follows: "Lincoln rose to his feet 
as quick as thought and was the most unearthly 
looking man imaginable. He roared like a 
lion roused from his lair and he said and did 
more things in ten minutes than he ordinarily 
said and did in an hour." 

Perhaps the real secret of his succcvss at the 
bar can best be summed up by the statement 
of E. M. Prince, who had seen him try over a 
hundred cases of all kinds: 

Mr. Lincoln had a genius for seeing the real point in 
a case at once and aiming steadily at it from the be- 
ginning of a trial to the end. The issue in most cases 
lies in very narrow compass, and the really great lawyer 
disregards everything not directly tending to that issue. 


The mediocre advocate is apt to miss the crucial point 
in his case and is easily diverted by minor matters. 
Mr. Lincoln instinctively saw the kernel of every case 
at the outset, never lost sight of it, and never let it 
escape the jury. 

Often he clinched his point with some anec- 
dote which so riveted it in the minds of the 
jury that it could not be dislodged by any 
amount of eloquence from his opponent. There 
was the case where he appeared for a defendant 
who was charged with assault and battery. It 
was proved that the plaintiff, who had been 
seriously injured, had made the first attack, 
but his lawyer argued that the defendant 
should not have defended himself so force- 

"That reminds me of the man who was attacked by 
a farmer's dog, which he killed with a pitchfork," com- 
mented Lincoln. " 'What made you kill my dog .3' 
demanded the farmer. 'What made him try to bite 
me?' said the other. 'But why didn't you go at him 
with the other end of your pitchfork.^' persisted the 
farmer. 'Well, why didn't he come at me with his 
other end.^' was the retort." 

Another time Lincoln disposed of the con- 
tention that custom makes law with this anec- 

Old Squire Bagley from Menard once came to my 
oflBce and said, "Lincoln, I want your advice as a 
lawyer. Has a man what's been elected a justice of 
the peace a right to issue a marriage license?" I told 
him he had not. "Lincoln, I thought you was a law- 


yer," he retorted. "Bob Thomas and me had a bet 
on this thing and we agreed to let you decide it; but 
if that is your opinion, I don't want it, for I know a 
blame sight better. I've been squire now eight years, 
and I've done it all the time!" 

The case of Duff Armstrong, who was ac- 
cused of murder, well shows Lincoln as a man 
and as a lawyer. Duff was the son of Jack 
Armstrong, the leader of the Clary Grove gang, 
whom Lincoln had once whipped in a fight 
when he was working as a clerk at New Salem. 
Afterward Jack and he had become firm friends. 
Duff and two others named Norris and Metzker 
had been drinking and there had been a free 
fight. Metzker had been struck over the head 
with a club by Norris and had received other 
injuries. Norris had already been convicted 
of manslaughter and the case looked bad for 
Duff Armstrong, who claimed that although 
he had struck Metzker with his fist he had 
not been guilty of the injuries which had 
caused the former's death. 

Jack Armstrong by this time had died, and 
his widow appealed to Lincoln. He was in the 
middle of a poHtical campaign, but he dropped 
everything to help the son of his old friend. At 
the trial a witness by the name of Allen took 
the stand and swore that he had actually seen 
Duff strike Metzker a blow with a blackjack. 
On cross-examination Lincoln brought out the 


fact that the fight had occurred at about eleven 
o'clock at night, away from any house or light. 
Then he asked the witness how he had been 
able to see the occurrence so plainly. "By the 
moonlight," answered the witness. 

Under further cross-examination Lincoln had 
Allen locate the position of the moon and testify 
that it was about full. Lincoln asked him no 
further questions and scarcely cross-examined 
the other witnesses, none of whom had actually 
seen the fight. Under the law of Illinois at that 
time the defendant was not permitted to take 
the stand himself. As Lincoln allowed wit- 
ness after witness to testify, with scarcely a 
word of cross-examination, all the spectators 
in the courtroom felt that the case against 
Armstrong was hopeless. This feeling became 
a certainty when Lincoln announced that he 
would call no witnesses, and had only one ex- 
hibit to offer in evidence. This exhibit, how- 
ever, turned out to be an almanac which 
showed that the moon was only in its first 
quarter and nearly set. Making but one point 
— the complete discrediting of the only eye- 
witness — Lincoln summed up to the jury and 
acquitted his client. 

There can be no better ending to an account 
of Lincoln's life as a lawyer than the advice 
which he once gave to young lawyers: 


Let no young man choosing the law for a calling 
yield to the popular belief that a lawyer cannot be an 
honest man. If in your judgment you cannot be an 
honest lawyer resolve to be honest without being a 
lawyer. Choose some other occupation. 



It was Abraham Lincoln's speaking which 
made him the President of the United States. 
His first speech when he was twenty-three 
years old raised him out of the ranks of day- 
laborers in his tiny town. Later his speeches 
sent him to the state legislature, to Congress, 
and to the White House, and pointed out the 
path which this nation followed and is still 
following, although Lincoln has been in his 
grave for more than half a century. 

How did he do it? How did this awkward, 
poor, uneducated man, with a bad speaking 
voice which often broke, make himself the 
greatest orator of his day? How did he deliver 
the Gettysburg Address, "which will live until 
languages are dead and lips are dust"? His 
methods are plain and simple. Every boy and 
every man, by following them, can make him- 
self a speaker, and add to his influence with 
men. Here are some of Lincoln's rules for 
oratory : 

Don't shoot too high. Aim low and the common 
people will understand you. They are the ones you 
want to reach — at least they are the ones you oaghl 
to reach. The educated and refined people will under- 



stand you, anyway. If you aim too high your ideas 
will go over the heads of the masses and only hit those 
who need no hitting. 

As a lawyer he never used a word that the 
dullest juryman could not understand. He 
followed the same method as a speaker. At 
Yale University the writer studied elocution 
under Prof. Mark Bailey, who had taught his 
father before him. Prof. Bailey first heard 
Lincoln speak when he was stumping New 
England for Fremont. He was so impressed 
with Lincoln's power that he followed him from 
town to town to hear him. 

Finally he succeeded in having a talk with 
him and asked him to explain his success as a 
speaker. "Well, all I know," said Lincoln, "is 
that when neighbors would come to my father's 
house cind talk to father in language I did not 
understand, I would become offended some- 
times and I would find myself going to bed 
that night unable to sleep. I bounded it on 
the north, south, east, and west until I had 
caught the idea, and then I said it to myself 
and when I said it, I used the language I would 
use when talking to the boys on the street." 

That was one of the secrets of Lincoln's ora- 
tory — ^the use of the small word. He never 
used a big word when a little one would do. His 
sentences were usually short and he spoke not 

Barnard's Statue of I.incoln. 


to be heaid but to be understood. More than 
fifty per cent, of the Avords used in his great 
speeches are words of one syllable. He would 
say, "I dug a ditch," instead of, "I excavated a 
channel"; "I lost out by bad luck," instead of, 
"I was defeated by a fortuitous combination 
of circumstances." It is for this reason that he 
is quoted more than any other American except 
Frankhn, another master of short sentences. 

In the Gettysburg Address, the greatest 
short speech in the Enghsh language, he used 
two hundred and seventy-one words. Of these 
exactly two hundred are words of one syllable, 
or almost seventy-four per cent. There are 
whole Hues of short words, such as: "That 
these dead shall not have died in vain." This 
use of the short word gives his sentences a force 
like the impact of a bullet. 

Again, Lincoln was a master in the use of 
Anglo-Saxon. We are not a Latin race and 
the speaker or the writer who can use language 
from our Saxon and Viking forebears will al- 
ways most strongly appeal to us. Examine 
some of Lincoln's best sentences, such as: 

The father of waters again goes unvexed to the sea. 

That this government of the people, by the people, 
and for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

As sm-e as God reigns and school-children read, that 
black, foul he can never be consecrated into God's 
hallowed truth. 


There is hardly a word from the Latin or the 
Greek in them. 

The use of quaint, homely sirailies and illus- 
trations was another of Lincoln's methods. 
When the mayor of New York, in the panic 
and bewilderment which followed the breaking 
out of the CivU War, proposed that New York 
City be taken out of the Union and made a 
free city — another Hamburg — Lincoln dis- 
posed of the plan in one sentence : 

It will be some time before the front door sets up 
housekeeping on its own account. 

When his plan of reconstruction was objected 
to as not elaborate enough, Lincoln defended 
it with an illustration: 

Admit that my policy is in the beginning to what 
the final policy will be in the end as an egg is to the 
chicken. Don't you think that you will get the ciiicken 
quicker by hatching the egg than by smashing it? 

His speeches were full of homely epigrams 
which needed only to be heard to be admitted, 
and which stuck forever in his hearers' mem- 
ories : 

God must have loved the common people, for he 
made so many of them. 

You can fool all of the people some of the time, and 
some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool 
all of the people all of the time. 


Anything that argues me into social and poh'tical 
equality with the negro is but a specious and fantastic 
arrangement of words, as if a man could prove a horse- 
chestnut to be a chestnut horse. 

Again he would crystallize his whole argu- 
ment into a single sentence: 

Among free men there can be no successful appeal 
from the ballot to the bullet. 

We must not promise what we ought not, lest we 
be called upon to perform what we cannot. 

We will say to the Southern disunionist, "We won't 
go out of the Union and you shan't!" 

I protest against the counterfeit logic which con- 
cludes that because I do not want a black woman for 
a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. 

On the platform as in court Lincoln could 
retort severely if the occasion demanded it. 
When only twenty-six years of age he was once 
bitterly attacked at a political meeting by a 
sarcastic speaker of great local reputation, who 
had changed his politics and by so doing had 
been appointed Register of the Land Office. 
Moreover, he had the distinction of owning 
the only lightning-rod in the county. \Mien 
Lincoln came to reply he said: 

I am yoimg in years but younger in the tricks and 
trade of a politician. IA\e long or die young, however, 
I would rather die now than like the last speaker change 
my politics in order to receive three thousand a year 
and then have to erect a lightning-rod over my house 
to protect my guilty conscience from an offended God. 


Like Franklin, Lincoln possessed in an ex- 
traordinary degree the power of persuasion. 
Can anything be more appealing, more frank, 
more void of offense, than his appeal to the 
South in his First Inaugural Address? 

Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can 
make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced 
between aUens than laws can among friends? ... I am 
loath to close. We are not enemies but friends. We 
must not be enemies. Though passion may have 
strained it must not break om* bonds of affection. The 
mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle- 
field and patriot grave to every Uving heart and hearth- 
stone all over this broad land, wiU yet swell the chorus 
of the Union when again touched, as surely they wiU be, 
by the better angels of our nature. 

Like Franklin, too, Lincoln possessed the 
tact of a true statesman. The night of Lee's 
surrender at Appomattox there was a wild 
time in Washington. A band serenaded the 
President, playing various patriotic airs, such 
as "Columbia" and "The Star-Spangled Ban- 
ner." When Lincoln was called upon to speak 
he turned to the bandmaster and said: "Play 
'Dixie' now. It's ours again." 

Another secret of Abraham Lincoln's strength 
as a speaker was the fact that he had saturated 
his mind with the two great masterpieces of 
English Uterature, the King James' Version of 
the Bible and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. 
Lincoln read and reread, again and again, both 


of these books until they became for him a 
storehouse to which he turned unconsciously 
for words, and phrases, and ideas. A part of 
his great speech in 1857 on the Dred Scott 
Decision of the Supreme Court, which, in effect, 
took away the last rights of the negro, might 
have been written by Bunyan : 

All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining 
against the black man. Mammon is after him; am- 
bition follows, philosophy follows, and the theology of 
the day is fast joining in the cry. They have him in the 
prison house; they have searched his person and left 
no prying instrument with him. One after another 
they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him; and 
now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of 
a hundred keys, which cannot be unlocked without 
the concurrence of every key; the keys in the hands of a 
hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred 
different places; and they stand, musing as to what in- 
vention in all the dominions of mind and matter can 
be produced to make the impossibiUty of escape more 
complete them it is. 

Who but one nourished on the imagery of 
the Bible could have spoken as Lincoln did in 
his first reply to Senator Douglas in 1854.^ 

These principles cannot stand together. They are 
as opposite as God and Mammon, and whosoever 
holds to the one must despise the other. . . . Our 
Repubhcan robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let 
us purify it. Let us turn and wash it white in the spirit 
if not the blood of the Revolution. 

Last and first and all the time Lincoln's 
power lay in the fact that he always had some- 


thing to say. He thought things out for him- 
self, instead of accepting other men's con- 
clusions. In 1856, at the first convention of 
the Republican party, he delivered a speech 
which cast such a speU over his audience that 
even the reporters forgot to take notes. For 
years it was known as the "Lost Speech." 
Finally in recent years a report of it was found. 
Across the years the echo of it thrills us today. 
Every young man should read Abraham Lin- 
coln's speech of May 19, 1856, which created 
a great party and outlined principles that this 
country has made a part of itself. 

It was on November 19, 1863, that Lincoln 
reached his full height as an orator. The 
national cemetery at Gettysburg was to be 
dedicated. Edward Everett had spoken for 
two hours, furbishing up old ideas and redress- 
ing old thoughts with wonderful rhetoric and 
eloquence. Then Lincoln spoke for five min- 
utes. Today no one remembers a sentence, a 
line, or an idea from Everett's speech. Read 
what Lincoln said, and note how every sentence 
rings true and famihar, like some oft-heard 
chapter of the Bible: 

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought 
forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in 
liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men 
are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great 
civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation 


so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We 
are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have 
come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final rest- 
ing-place for those who here gave their lives that that 
nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper 
that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can- 
not dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, 
this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who 
struggled here have consecrated it far above oiu* poor 
power to add or detract. The world will little note 
nor long remember what we say here, but it can never 
forget what they did here. It is for us the hving, rather, 
to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they 
who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is 
rather for us to be here dedicated to the greet task re- 
maining before us — that from these honored dead we 
take increased devotion to that cause for which they 
gave the last full measure of deA^otion — that we here 
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in 
vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth 
of freedom, and that government of the people, by the 
people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 



It has been well said that the difference be- 
tween a politician and a statesman is that a 
politician tries to make the people do something 
for him, while a statesman tries to do some- 
thing for the people. Applying this test Abra- 
ham Lincoln was always a statesman. In his 
first speech in 1832, when he was only twenty- 
tliree years old, he declared: 

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. 
Whether it be true or not I can say for one that I have 
no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of 
my fellow-men by rendering myself worthy of their 

It was the recognition that he was really 
trying to serve them and not himself which 
gave him the confidence of the people. More- 
over, he had the same trust in the people that 
they had in him. 

Why should there not be a patient confidence in 
the ultimate justice of the people.^* ... Is there any 
better or equal hope in the world.** 

he asked in one of his speeches. 

Honesty was the policy on which he founded 
his pubhc life. In 1834, when he was first 
elected to the Illinois legislature, his friends 



raised a fund of two hundred dollars for his 

election expenses. After the campaign was 

over he returned to them $199.25 of this fund. 

In 1836 he first showed in pubhc life that moral 

courage which was to carry him so far. A bill 

was introduced to move the capital of Illinois 

to Springfield, which was Lincoln's home and 

where he and all his constituents wished the 

capital to be. Another measure, of which he 

did not approve, was joined as a rider to this 

bill, in the hope that it might be passed. 

Lincohi refused to vote for it. An all-night 

meeting was held and great pressure brought 

to bear upon him by prominent citizens from 

all over the state. Finally, after midnight, 

Lincoln rose amid profound silence and made an 

earnest speech, ending with this statement of 

one of the abiding principles of his pohtical 


You will never get me to support a measure which 
I believe to be wrong, although by so doing I may ac- 
comphsh that which I beheve to be right. 

In 1837 he again had a chance to show his 
moral courage against odds. Incidentally he 
began to carry out the promise which he had 
made when he first saw slaves sold on the block. 
A few men had met together in Boston and, 
protesting against slavery, had pledged them- 
selves to fight for its abolition. It seems strange 


in these days, when all men are free as a matter 
of course, to read of the fire and fury that arose 
against the Abolitionists in both the North 
and the South. A mob of prominent citizens 
dragged WUliam Lloyd Garrison, one of the 
first of the Abohtionists, through the streets of 
Boston with a halter around bis body, while in 
Cincinnati the publication of an anti-slavery 
paper was stopped by the simple process of 
throwing the printing-press into the Ohio 
River, and in Illinois an editor was murdered. 
When a resolution was offered in the legis- 
lature of Illinois, attacking abolition and de- 
fending slavery, Lincoln and one other man 
voted against it. Lincoln offered a counter- 
resolution that the institution of slavery was 
not only founded on injustice but was bad 
policy. At that time he announced another 
of his political principles: 

The probability that we may fail in a worthy cause 
is not a sufficient justification for our refusing to sup- 
port it. 

In 1847 Lincoln was elected to Congress. 
His own estimate of himself and his life up to 
that time is contained in a few lines prepared 
for the Congressional Record, in contrast Avith 
the pages of biography so often inflicted on 
that publication. It ran as follows: 


Born, February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Ky. 

Education, defective. 

Profession, a lawyer. 

Have been a captain of volunteers in Black Hawk 

Postmaster in a very small office. 

Four times a member of the Illinois legislature, and 
a member of the Lower House of Congress. 

In Congress he voted against the iniquitous 
Mexican War, although his stand cost him a 
re-election. He wrote to Herndon, his partner: 

Would you have voted what you felt and knew to be 
a lie? I know you would not. Would you have gone 
out of the House — skulked the vote;' I expect not. 

Lincoln returned to private hfe with his pop- 
ularity shattered but with his conscience whole. 
Apparently his principles had mustered him 
out of public hfe forever. 

Time went on. Stephen A. Douglas had 
brought about in Congress a repeal of the 
Missouri Compromise, which was an agree- 
ment that slavery should be kept out of all 
territory north of a certain parallel. Lincoln 
was riding circuit when the news of the repeal 
of this last safeguard against slavery was 
brought to him. A friend who occupied the 
same room with him that night told afterward 
how Lincoln spent the evening discussing the 
repeal and what it meant to the country. 
When this friend woke up in the morning he 


saw Lincoln sitting just where he had left him 
the night before. As if the conversation had 
not been interrupted Lincoln said to him: "I 
tell you, this country cannot continue to exist 
half-slave and half-free." 

That sentence became the keynote of his 
convictions. From that night he again entered 
politics. One of his friends was running for 
re-election to Congress. Lincoln began to 
speak for him and in aU of his speeches he at- 
tacked the extension of slavery. Finally in 
1858 he was nominated for the United States 
Senate, for the seat then occupied by Douglas. 
At a convention at Springfield he said: 

I do not believe that this government can perma- 
nently endure half-slave and half-free. I do not ex- 
pect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to 
be divided. 

This thought aroused men like a firebell at 
midnight. There followed the great debate 
between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. 
Douglas, rival candidates for the Senate. The 
prize was the presidency of the United States. 
The odds seemed overwhelmingly in favor of 
Douglas. He was wealthy, a senator, a trained 
debater with a magnificent voice, and the 
leader of the Democratic party. Lincoln was 
hardly known except as an able country law- 
yer. Douglas traveled in a special train, car- 

President Lincoln and General McClellan at Antietam, 

October 2, 1.S62, Soon After the Battle. 
Photograph by Brady From the collection of Frederick Hill 
Mexerve. Xew York Citu. 


rying a cannon that announced his presence 
at each town where he spoke. Lincohi was 
likely to arrive shabby and haggard from an 
all-night ride in a day-coach. At first the 
rhetoric and eloquence of Douglas seemed to 
give him the advantage. Little by little Lin- 
coln began to win a verdict from his audiences 
by the naked force of his arguments and his 
pitiless logic. Finally, Lincoln propounded to 
his opponent a question as unanswerable as 
the one that Christ asked the Pharisees. Which- 
ever way he answered it Douglas would inevit- 
ably lose the support of either the North or the 
South. Douglas tried to compromise. By so 
doing he won the race for the senatorship but 
lost the contest for the presidency later on. 

"We accuse him for this," thundered Judah P. Ben- 
jamin, the most able of the Southern senators. "Under 
the stress of a local election his knees gave way, his 
whole person trembled. His adversary stood upon 
principle and was beaten; and lo, he is the candidate 
of a mighty party for the presidency of the United 
States. The senator from Illinois faltered. He got 
the prize for which he faltered, but the grand prize of 
his ambition today shps from his grasp because of his 
faltering in his former contest; and his success in the 
canvass for the Senate, purchased for an ignoble price, 
has cost him the loss of the presidency of the United 

There followed the convention and campaign 
of 1860, and the election of Abraham Lincoln 
to the presidency of the United States. Under 


the responsibilities and discipline of that great 
office Lincoln reached his full stature as a 
statesman and grew into the heroic figure 
which has come down to us. Only a great man 
could have shown the magnanimity and for- 
getfulness of self which he showed to Seward, to 
Stanton, to IMcClellan, and to a host of others. 
Lincoln called political and personal oppo- 
nents to office. His only test was whether they 
could be of service to the country. Most of 
his Cabinet and even his generals regarded his 
election as an accident and himself as a coun- 
try politician wholly unfitted to be President. 
McClellan, one of Lincoln's first generals, was 
a Democrat and had provided the special 
trains on which Douglas had traveled during 
his debates with Lincoln. When appointed a 
general McClellan disregarded Lincoln's orders 
and treated his chief in a way that but few men 
could have borne. At one time when Lincoln 
called at his house to see him on a critical mat- 
ter, McClellan sent down word that he could 
not be disturbed and calmly went to bed, leav- 
mg the President of the United States to take 
himseK home. Lincoln bore with him, however, 
until the very last, hoping against hope that he 
would finally learn to lead the armies of the 
Union to a victory. To one vfho urged him to 
discipline the general for his insolence, Lincoln 


merely said: "I will stand outside and hold 
McClellan's horse for him if he will only bring 
us success." 

Seward was called to become Secretary of 
State. He was the recognized leader of the Re- 
publican party, a candidate for the presidency, 
and in the Cabinet expected to be the power be- 
hind the throne. Compassionating what he 
supposed to be Lincoln's weakness, Seward 
actually wrote him a letter, proposing to take 
charge of the government and become acting- 
President. Lincoln refused this extraordinary 
suggestion, but with so much tact and kindness 
that he made Seward one of his warmest sup- 
porters and was able to avail himself of his 
great talents for the country's good. It was only 
a few weeks after this letter that the Secretary 
of State wrote to Mrs. Seward: "The President 
is the best of us all." 

Throughout his presidency Lincoln refused 
to treasure up any personal injury and utilized 
even his enemies to help him save the country. 
He kept Chase as Secretary of the Treasury 
even when he knew that he was plotting to 
secure the nomination for the presidency. 

Lincoln had first met Edwin M. Stanton 
when he had been retained with the latter in 
one of the most important cases of his legal 
career. "Where did that long-armed creature 


come from, and what does he expect to do in 
this case?" demanded Stanton after they had 
met in Cincinnati, speaking so loudly as to be 
heard by Lincoln through an open door in the 
hotel. As a result of his contemptuous treat- 
ment of Lincoln, the latter was sidetracked 
and Stanton made the argument. After Lin- 
coln had been elected President, Stanton, who 
had served in Buchanan's Cabinet, wrote and 
spoke of him with the utmost bitterness and 
disdain, referring to him in his letters as a 
"goriDa." Yet it was Stanton whom Lincoln 
called to be Secretary of War. Even after his 
appointment Stanton treated the President 
with marked disrespect. Once when Lincoln 
released some prisoners without regard to 
Stanton's wishes, the latter said that the only 
thing left to do was "to get rid of that baboon 
in the White House." 

"I wouldn't endure that insult," said an 
indignant friend who reported the matter to 
the President. "Insult? That is no insult," 
returned Lincoln. "All he said was that I was 
a baboon, and that is only a matter of opinion, 
sir." Then he added after a pause, "The thing 
that concerns me most is that I find that Stan- 
ton is usually right." Yet Stanton hved to say 
at Lincoln's bier: "There lies the greatest 
leader of men the world has ever seen." 


In the presidency, as outside, Lincoln was 
great enough to do the right thing even when 
the whole country was against him. When the 
commander of a Union vessel took the Con- 
federate commissioners. Mason and SlideU, by 
force from a British steamer, the North made a 
hero of the officer. Lincoln realized instantly 
that this act was of the same class as those 
committed by Great Britain which brought on 
the War of 1812. In spite of the clamor of the 
whole country he restored the Confederate 
commissioners to Great Britain and disavowed 
their capture. 

He who looks ever into the far future and 
seeks constantly to know the eternal purposes 
of life wins to a clearer vision than ordinary 
men. It was so with Abraham Lincoln. Listen 
to some of the messages that he has left for us 
of another generation: 

No man is good enough to govern another person 
without that other's consent. 

This is a world of compensation. He who would 
be no slave must be content to have no slave. Those 
who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves, 
and under a just God cannot long retain it; 

It is best for all to leave each man free to acquire 
property as fast as he can. I don't beheve in a law to 
prevent a man from getting rich. It would do more 
harm than good. I want every man to have a chance 
to better his condition. 


Repeal the Missouri Compromise; repeal all the 
compromises; repeal the Declaration of Independence; 
repeal all past history — you still cannot repeal human 


Like Moses, Luther, and Washington, Lin- 
coln became a great leader of men only when 
he surrendered himself to God. His mother, 
Nancy Hanks, was a Christian woman. Of her 
he said: "I remember her prayers and they 
have always followed me. They have clung 
to me all my life." 

As a boy he read his Bible and attended 
church when he could. In those days he 
learned the hymns which were his favorites 
throughout life, "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" 
and "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood." 
During his early manhood he drifted into a 
temporary indifference toward rehgious mat- 
ters. Yet even through this time he read and 
reread his Bible, and his later hfe showed what 
it did for him. 

Take all of this book upon reason that you can and 
the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier 

Lincoln wi'ote to a skeptical friend. 

Another great war president of our own 
time has borne testimony about this Book oi 
books, which Lincoln would have echoed in the 
last vears of his life: 



The Bible is the Word of life. I beg that you will 
read it and find this out for yourselves. Read, not 
little snatches here and there, but long passages that 
will really be the road to the heart of it. You will not 
only find it full of real men and women, but also of 
the things you have wondered about and been troubled 
about all your life, as men have been always; and the 
more you read the more it will become plain to you 
what things are worth while and what are not; what 
things make men happy — loyalty, right dealings, speak- 
ing the truth, readiness to give everything for what they 
thmk their duty, and, most of all, the wish that they 
may have the approval of the Christ, who gave every- 
thing for them; and the things that are guaranteed to 
make men unhappy — selfishness, cowardice, greed, 
and everything that is low and mean. When you have 
read the Bible you will know that it is the Word of 
God, because you will have found it the key to your own 
heart, your own happiness, and your own duty. 

WooDROw Wilson. 

Lincoln's period of indifTerence was followed 
by an awakening to higher things. In 1842 he 
wrote to his friend Speed a letter in which he 

I beheve God made me one of the instruments of 

bringing Fanny and you together, which union I have 

no doubt he had foreordained. Whatever he designs 

he will do for me yet. "Stand still and see the salvation 

'of the Lord" is my text just now. 

More and more Lincoln's speeches became 
tinged with religious thought. In 1856 in the 
"Lost Speech" he said: 

The stars in their courses, aye, an invisible power, 
greater than the puny efforts of men, will fight for us. 
. . . Our moderation and forbearance will stand us in 
good stead when, if ever, we must make an appeal to 
battle and to the God of hosts. 

Lincoln and His Son " Tad." 
From photograph taken while Lincoln was President. 


At last, preferred to all the great leaders of 

his party, he was made the President of his 

country. The sheer wonder of it made him 

know that he had been chosen of God for a 

great pmpose. 

I cannot but know what you all know that without 
a name, perhaps without a reason why I should have a 
name, there has fallen upon me a task such as did not 
rest even upon the father of his country; and so feeUng 
I cannot but turn and look for that support without 
which it will be impossible for me to perform that great 
task. I turn, then, and look to the great American 
people and to that God who has never forsaken them. 

His farewell to his friends at Springfield as he 
left to go to Washington shows as does nothing 
else the new spirit of his life. As with the 
friends of the Apostle Paul at Miletus, many 
of them "wept sore, . . . sorrowing most of all 
for the words which he spake, that they should 
see his face no more." To them he said : 

My Friends: No one not in my situation can appre- 
ciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this 
place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every- 
thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and 
have passed from a young to an old man. Here my 
children have been born, and one is buried. I now 
leave, not knowing when or whether I may ever return, 
with a task before me greater than that which rested 
upon Washington. Without the assistance of that 
Divine Being who ever attended him I cannot succeed. 
With that assistemce I caimot fail. Trusting in him, 
who can go with me and remain with you, and be every- 
where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet 
be well. To his care commending you, as I hope in 
your prayers you will conmaend me, I bid you an afi'ec- 
tionate farewell. 


From that day a new life begins for him — 
the life of a devoted Christian. "I have been 
driven many times to my knees," he later 
wrote, "because I had nowhere else to go." 

Again he declared: 

I would be the veriest blockhead if I thought I could 
get through with a single day's business without relying 
upon Him who doeth all things well. 

This spirit shows constantly throughout all 
his duties. To a Missouri delegation he said: 

I desire to so conduct the affairs of this administra- 
tion that if at the very end, when I come to lay down the 
reins of power, I have lost every friend on earth, I shall 
have at least one friend left — my conscience. 

When a minister, representing a visiting del- 
egation, said to him that he hoped the Lord 
was on theu' side, Mr. Lincoln replied: 

I am more concerned to know whether we are on the 
Lord's side. 

Constantly he sought for the sympathy, and 
the prayers, and the help of all Christian peo- 
ple. A minister from a little village in central 
New York State called to tell him that every 
Christian father and mother was praying for 
him every day. The tears filled Lincoln's eyes 
as he thanked his visitor and said: 

But for these prayers I should have faltered and 
perhaps failed long ago. Tell every father and mother 
you know to keep on praying and I will keep on fighting. 


After the Emancipation Proclamation had 
been signed he said to some men who had called 
to congratulate him on the success of the Union 

On many a defeated field there was a voice louder 
than the thundering of cannon. It was the voice of 
God crying, "Let my people go." We were all very 
slow in reaUzing that it was God's voice, but after 
many humiliating defeats the nation came to believe 
it as a great and solemn command. Great multitudes 
begged and prayed that I might answer God's voice 
by signing the Emancipation Proclamation, and I did 
it, believing that we should never be successful in the 
great struggle unless we obeyed the Lord's command. 
Since that the God of battles has been on our side. 

Just before the Battle of Gettysburg all of 
the members of the Cabinet were in a state of 
terrible anxiety. General Lee with a power- 
ful army had swept up into Pennsylvania. On 
the eve of the battle General Meade, almost 
an untried general, had been placed in com- 
mand, A defeat meant the loss of the Capital 
and perhaps the occupation of Philadelphia 
and even New York. Everywhere was panic. 
Only Lincoln remained unmoved and unafraid. 
After the battle he told General Sicldes the 
reason of his confidence: 

In the pinch of your campaign up there, when every- 
body seemed panic-stricken and nobody could tell what 
was going to happen, I went to my room one day and 
locked the door and got down on my knees before 
Almighty God, and prayed for victory at Gettysburg. 
I told turn that this was his war, and our cause his 


cause, but that we could not stand another Fredericks- 
burg or Chancellorsville. Then I made a vow to Al- 
mighty God that if he would stand by our boys at 
Gettysburg, I would stand by him, and he did stand 
by you boys and I will stand by him. And after that, 
I don't know how it was and I can't explain it, but soon 
a sweet comfort swept into m.y soul that God Almighty 
had taken the whole business into his own hands, and 
that is why I have no fears about you. 

To Chittenden, the Register of the Treasury, 
Lincohi said: 

That the Almighty does make use of human agencies, 
and directly intervenes in human affairs, is one of the 
jjlainest statements in the Bible. I have had so many 
evidences of his direction, so many instances when I 
have been controlled by some other power than my 
own will, that I cannot doubt that this power comes 
from above. I frequently see my way clear to a deci- 
sion when I am conscious that I have not sufficient facts 
upon which to found it. I am satisfied that when the 
Almighty wants me to do or not to do a particular 
thing, he finds a way of letting me know it. 

It was this deep and achieved faith in God 
that made John Hay, who had been one of his 
private secretaries, say of him: 

Abraham Lincoln, one of the mightiest masters of 
statecraft that history has known, was also one of the 
most devoted and faithful servants of Almighty God 
who have ever sat in the high places of the world. 

Only a Christian could have written the 
letter which he sent to a Mrs. Bixby, who had 
lost five sons in the service. It is copied in 
letters of gold on the walls of a great English 


Dear Madam: 

I have been shown in the flies of the War Department 
a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts 
that you are the mother of five sons who have died 
gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and 
fruitless must be any words of mine which should at- 
tempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so over- 
whelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you 
the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the 
Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly 
Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, 
and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved 
and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to 
have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. 
Yours very sincerely and respectfully, 
Abraham Lincoln. 

Time went on. The war was drawing to its 
close. On the day of the receipt of the news of 
Lee's surrender the President held a meeting 
of the Cabinet. Neither Lincoln nor any mem- 
ber was able for a time to speak. Finally, at 
the suggestion of the President, all dropped on 
their knees and thanked God in silence and in 
tears for the victory that he had granted to the 
Union. It is doubtful whether there is any 
other recorded instance where the meeting of 
the Cabinet of a great country ended in 

The victories of the Union arms re-elected 
Lincoln as President. In his Second Inaugural 
Address he reached heights not achieved before, 
when looking back over four years of war, 
hatred, and calumny he was yet able to say: 


The Almighty has his own purposes. If we shaU 
suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses 
which in the pro\'idence of God must needs come, but 
which, having continued through his appointed time, 
he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North 
and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by 
whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any 
departure from those divine attributes which the be- 
lievers in a Uving God always ascribe to him? Fondly 
do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty 
scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God 
wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up by 
the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unre- 
qmted toil shall be simk, and until every drop of blood 
drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn 
by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, 
so still it must be said: "The judgments of the Lord are 
true and righteous altogether." 

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with 
firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, 
let us strive on to finish the work we are now in, to bind 
up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have 
borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to 
do aU which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting 
peace among ourselves and with all nations. 

In his last public speech of April 11, 1865, 
Lincoln again testified to his faith and trust in 
God. He said in part: 

We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness 
of heart. The evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg, 
and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give 
the hope of a just and speedy peace, the joyous expres- 
sion of which cannot be restrained. In all this joy, 
however. He from whom all blessings flow must not 
be forgotten. 

Three nights later in the state box at Ford's 
Theatre he was talking to Mrs. Lincoln about 


a trip to the Holy Land. Just as he was saying 
that there was no city which he so much wished 
to see as Jerusalem, his words were cut short 
by the fatal bullet. On the morning of April 
15, 1865, he who had wept often but who had 
never flinched nor faltered, went, not without 
abundant entrance, into the presence of his 
Lord. Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of 
War and his onetime enemy, broke the silence 
of the death-chamber and said : 

Now he belongs to the ages.